With a very slim margin, the House OKs Labor-HHS Spending Bill

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The House yesterday voted to approve by a slim margin the $602 billion Labor-HHS spending bill. The bill decreases discretionary spending by about 1 percent to a total of $142.5 billion, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The approval comes just as a somewhat different version failed to go through last month as House Democrats refused it, as did a good amount of Republicans. Republicans cited cuts in funding for rural healthcare programs as their reasoning. However, on Monday a change agreement was reached which moved $180 million in health-related costs - which won over the Republicans in opposition.

The bill includes ear-marked monies that must be spent for programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. However, big cuts to medical training, community colleges, rural healthcare, and state and local health departments are called for in the bill.

In this legislation, discretionary spending has been decreased about $1.5 billion compared to last year, while NIH expects to receive the smallest funding boost it has seen since 1970.

Democrats unanimously voted against the Labor-HHS spending bill emphasized their dislike of decreases in funding for programs that benefit low-income families.

The bill will now advance to the Senate where it faces uncertain prospects.

Regarding the bill, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) stated in a related editorial, "I will vote for it if my vote is needed to pass, otherwise I will vote against. There is not enough money in it." Spector is chair of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee.